Are you a professional coach?

Uncovering ways to use the CoachME Model in SUPERvision

By Clare Beckett-McInroy|01.03.2021

The coaching industry has grown significantly over the past decade, with people from various occupational backgrounds entering the profession. There has also been a shift towards substantiated research of return on investment, establishing high standards of competence, and ethical professionalism in an industry that has few barriers to entry and, arguably, little regulation.

Most coaches undertake training and other professional development opportunities although there are many untrained and inexperienced individuals who call themselves coaches. The number of coaches joining professional bodies and seeking credentialing with these bodies has also grown, however, after the initial enthusiasm for training, it was indicated in 2006 that only 50% of coaches undertake coaching SUPERvision post-qualification (Whybrow and Palmer, 2006). Research shows that around one third of 2000+ coaches in a study by Passmore et al (2017), expect coaching SUPERvision for free implying that it is probably carried out peer-to-peer. Research continues in terms of structure, format, content and time around Coaching SUPERvision and CoachME are collaborating with other professionals to grow the body of knowledge in this area.

SUPERvision has been required in caring professions for many years and is now seen by the main coaching professional bodies as an either essential or desirable part of ongoing professional coach development. It is viewed as essential to maintain, sustain, and evolve good practice, and failure to do so has significant professional consequences. Early writers on SUPERvision for coaches from Peter Hawkins and Robert Shohet (1989) reframed work in the regulated professions such as therapy and counselling for coaching, which is unregulated. Reports show that, as a method of self-reflection for coaches, SUPERvision came in fifth place behind private reflection, reading, research and peer networking (EMCC, 2017). Although these activities are beneficial, they may do little in terms of regulating the profession and safeguarding standards; coaching SUPERvision can support this.

‘SUPER’vision provides a METAvision

CoachME write it as ‘SUPER’ because it can be – over and above, of high grade or quality, a term of approval, and powerful (Merriam-Webster, 2001). Then the ‘vision’ part – an idea or mental image of something, the ability to imagine how something could develop in the future, the ideas that come from imagining. (Cambridge Dictionary, 2021)

It combines so much including philosophy, cognitive process, existentialism, profound emotions, values and purpose, sometimes unnatural, or atypical insight and topics are presented. Other elements include belonging, emotional and somatic awareness. This is what SUPERvisees have fed back to us over the years.

As Clutterbuck et al, (2016) share “… the practice of reflecting on your client work. If we focus on the element of “vison”, then this highlights the fact that the activity enhances your ability to “see” your work from an expanded perspective. By examining how you practice, you can illuminate the subtle choices you make in client conversations. Through reflection it becomes possible to celebrate your strengths, uncover your blind spots and explore the potential for unconscious bias.”

At CoachME we got together in the summer of ‘COVID-19’ 2020 and started to realise that using the concept of METAvision as opposed to SUPERvision for this work actually fits better as we were thinking about the thinking about… a METAvision (although using this terminology may be confusing initially in the field ). This is because we strongly feel that the reflective space, challenge, benchmarking, resourcing, and a supportive environment enables SUPERvisees and SUPERvisors to consider the effects of their actions – in leadership meetings, coaching sessions with Coachees, and so forth, as well as in SUPERvision sessions, so both in the moment and in retrospect, supporting actions being more considered and conscious. This META element also supports transcending as well as hard focus upon social, political, cultural, geography, class, identity and other phenomena, as well as reflecting upon all layers of relationships and SUPERvision processes. METAvision, therefore, captures the important thinking about the way all parties are thinking in and on SUPERvision. Meta originates from the Greek prefix and preposition meta, meaning ‘after’ or ‘beyond’.  When used in English, combined with other words, it often signifies ‘change’ or ‘alteration’ as in the words metamorphic or metabolic. (Dictionary.com) And isn’t that perfect for this work as we capture and grow our strengths, just as we identify and explore, then shift in terms of our development areas?

What is SUPERvision?

SUPERvision is a brilliantly multifaceted, deep partnership that requires exceptional skills such as deep listening – listening beyond words, ‘fierce courage’ and compassion, knowledge of tools, techniques and experiences, and the use of behaviours to support psychological safety to create a reflective space for the SUPERvisee to restore, resource, and develop (Hawkins and Smith, 2013), be challenged and supported, notice blind spots, benchmark, recalibrate, and inquiry into ‘being’, ‘doing’ and ‘impact’. Being as opposed to living, has a quality of having consciousness and relates to SUPERvision that is thinking about our work to do it even better (Caroll, 2006). The practice of coaching is evolving all the time, so it is crucially important for coaches to continue their professional development post qualification. Reports show that many coaches participate in private research, reading, webinars, networking, and attending conferences, yet far fewer benefit from short courses, formal training and further education. Many coaches only partake in the required Mentor Coaching and/or SUPERvision to sustain or renew their credential with a professional body. There are, of course, exceptions where internal and external Coaches invest a substantial amount of time and money for Mentor Coaching and SUPERvision due to a love of learning and a desire to stay ahead in their field. In terms of personal development, it seems that there is much more emphasis on theory than on practical application. There is less still on who the coach is ‘being’, their mental health, and their evolution. Proctor’s (1986) labelled normative, formative and restorative (or supportive) functions as ways of defining the nature of SUPERvision.

Coaching SUPERvision bridges the gap between theory, research, policy and practice. A coach can bring to SUPERvision real and specific issues, or patterns across coachees’ engagements, in order to further their own personal development. Additionally, if a coach reaches an impasse with their coachee, they can refer to their SUPERvisor to learn new tools and techniques, or refresh existing skills, and practice them in a safe environment through, for example, role play. SUPERvision is individualised and a pragmatic way of learning that can happen at the point of need. With this support, the coach can quickly unlock progress, engage and contribute in new ways, improving the coaching experience.

SUPERvision includes a range of experiences

SUPERvision is not always ‘nice’. It can include “…the disregarded, the discouraged and the disgraced…” (Ryan, 2008). Uncovering beyond face value involves looking with interest into al that is ‘there’. John Dewey, Psychologist and Philosopher, was one of the founders of reflection in relation to learning. Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” (1933) The CoachME SUPERvision model provides opportunity for reflection at any stage of the coaching process, to evoke learning and positive transformation that is sustained, through insights that allow us to make informed decisions, drawing on a range of experiences and awareness – cognitive, emotional, somatic – to achieve the results we need for ourselves and the wider system(s)we live and work in, providing a positive ripple effect throughout the whole system.

Without expert SUPERvision, coaches may run the risk of burnout, making ethical inadvertent mistakes or even causing more harm than good, which could bring themselves and the organisations they work for into disrepute or legal action. At CoachME we see coaching SUPERvision for internal and external, individual, team or group coaches as a safe reflective environment in which to uncover insights, build awareness and synthesize skills, knowledge and behaviours. It’s a journey of discovery for safe practice, building capability, competence, confidence and courage. It offers inspiration to be the optimum version of yourself as a coach and augments learning for the SUPERvisee too.

For Coaches who work one-to-one or with groups, SUPERvision is exceptionally useful, yet due to the complex nature of team coaching, SUPERvision can take us to a whole new universe! SUPERvision can take place with peers, in groups, one-to-one, and with a professionally trained and/or accredited SUPERvisor. Wilkins et al., (2018) found that group SUPERvision may be more beneficial than one-on-one, and more frequent and longer sessions may be more advantageous than shorter, less frequent sessions (Wilkins et al., 2018). Group SUPERvision can create a supportive community experience (Proctor, 2000) and, as neuroscience confirms, novelty can enhance learning (Rock, 2008).

Not to be confused with the usual organisation meaning of supervisor as a term meaning the role of a line manager who oversee a person’s work, this type of SUPERvision for team leaders and line managers, is beneficial. Furthermore, “A common misconception is that coaching supervision is only needed “when you get stuck”. Even when your coaching is going well, there is benefit in analysing that it is that is working. Specifically, what you as a coach are doing within the process, so that you may use this learning and understanding to grow your own capacity.” (Clutterbuck et al., 2016). This involves celebrating what is working and ways to transfer effective coaching and leadership capacity to various contexts, cultures, genders, levels, formats, and sectors.

What topics are presented in SUPERvision?

Mentor Coaching focuses upon developing coaching competencies and especially for credentialing purposes, although it can be used at any time during a Coaches development journey. In contrast, Coaching SUPERvision, may focus upon:

  • Deepening coaching presence
  • Working systemically
  • Clearer and cleaner contracting
  • Parallel processes
  • Reflective practice
  • Objective perspectives on own work
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Stepping into authority
  • Being with not knowing
  • Co-delivering coaching
  • Providing Feedback
  • Resourcing
  • Networking and social, emotional health
  • Patterns and themes
  • Letting go of mentoring habits
  • Ways of working systemically, addressing conflicting needs of stakeholders
  • Ethical issues such a confidentiality
  • ‘Difficult’ coaching sessions
  • When to refer a client to a different type of professional.

 

There are overlaps between Mentor Coaching and SUPERvision for such topics as ethics, for example. Similar topics are often presented in SUPERvision on SUPERvision which we advocate too. As Clutterbuck et al., share “We should not overlook the needs of the coaching supervisors themselves, who can also benefit from engaging in supervision for both their coaching and their supervision practice.” (2016)

A Deep Dive into The CoachME Model for SUPERvision

Models and frameworks help focus attention on a wider range of “parts” of any system. They can help us to take notice of aspects of the SUPERvision process and relationship that might otherwise be overlooked.

The CoachME Model was designed following research of 8 key coaching models. It includes a systemic lens, enables contextualisation by addressing the field the client is part of, and focuses on results, supports transition planning – being resilient, managing setbacks and dependencies plus celebrating milestones, as well as working iteratively. It also advocates reflective practice, sustaining momentum for transformation as opposed to ‘just’ change, and last but by no means least, action is of course part of the model too.

We examined and used the three key models for systemic transformational SUPERvision being the Seven-eyed Model, the CLEAR model and the Four levels of Engagement (Hawkins and Smith, 2013), and we continue to tap into these models. The Seven-eyed Model maps the broad perspective SUPERvision can embrace looking at context to support client work. The CLEAR Model enables a dynamic way of igniting deeper understanding of the process of SUPERvision, to support changes in practice habits by “…practicing new behaviours driven by different assumptions, when old behaviours are not helping us or our clients.” (Clutterbuck et al., 2016). The Four Levels of Engagement Model, signposts ways to direct the SUPERvision conversation towards transformational change. What we feel the CoachME SUPERvision Model adds to these three models, and the body of knowledge and experience in this area, is specific focuses on skills, knowledge and behaviours, deep dives or wide reflection, support in transition planning – managing dependencies and setbacks, working with agility, iteratively, as well as resiliently ‘bouncing back’, and specific references to exploring belief in the field and process, as well as celebration.

We use the CoachME Model with groups, individuals and teams or boards, as well as in Mentor Coaching and SUPERvision. This article explains how the model can be used effectively in SUPERvision.

The various facets of the CoachME Model drawn together are designed to encourage the Coachee to think outside their own frame of reference and mindsets, to create emotional shifts during the session and beyond. This helps to achieve session results, for individuals or collectively for teams, and also those big dreams and life purpose long-term results we wish to gain. We know that flow is achieved when results are gained and celebrated, even those tiny milestones increase motivation to continue to work on our desired results.

We hold people as being naturally creative, resourceful and whole. They do not need fixing in any way. Clients are ‘enough’ already, and there is even more understanding, growth and positive impact to come. They have their own perspectives, experiences and wisdom on how to live their lives. As we move or dance with them around the model, in a non-linear fashion, we work together with anything and everything that arises in relationship. We Coach and SUPERvise the whole person, as opposed to addressing issues or topics. This brings to the relationship a wide scope and our humanity, as opposed to individual sets of incidents, circumstance or opportunity. We work to enable potential’ that is not just change, instead it is long-term and sustainable, creating positive transformational impact for the Coachee, their people and even the world! This is why the model includes TRANSITION PLANNING as we need to plan, often iteratively as we are faced with setbacks and dependencies that need to be planned for.

 

The PROCESS

The model is intentionally non-linear and non-cyclical. From extensive reading and practice of different models and theories, as well as empirical research critiquing and assessing systematically the value of model, we have found that SUPERvisees do not always follow the linear or cyclical elements of clarifying the issues, getting the evidence, planning the action, acting. They may ‘stay’ during a whole session in one place or ‘dance’ between different facets. For example, they may be in Transition Planning and bounce in and out of Results for both the session and long-term goals. They may also dip into Reflection about what has worked previously or what achievement will look and feel like, linking this with knowledge to consider what they need to ‘deepen’ in terms of learning, to close gaps, then forward their action.

The model has integrated relational and systemic aspects in a single theoretical model. It is relational because it concentrates on the relationships between client(s), the wider system they live and work in, the client and the SUPERvisor, and so forth. It focuses on the interplay between each relationship and their context within the wider system.

SUPERvision, one-to-one, or in a group setting, can be SUPERvisee(s)led, SUPERvisor led and anything in between. It can be one full focus on one topic, one Coachee or one SUPERvisee, or it can be divided into different topics or providing each SUPERvisee with time for them to have the ‘spotlight’,

RESULTS

Results address the desired results for a SUPERvision session as well as medium and long-term results. It can be easy for us as to see our SUPERvisees in terms of their problems, and how together we might work to solve or fix them. A more powerful focus can be to partner with the purpose of the SUPERvision, why this topic now; what will addressing this topic bring to the SUPERvisee and the people in their system – their Coachees and beyond; what the SUPERvisee/Coach wishes to walk away from the session with; and how important it is to walk away with that.  A deficit or ‘spotlight’ approach can block us from being able to empathise especially if we objectify our SUPERvisee. Just as in coaching, SUPERvising the person and not the issue is important. Focusing on the result in perspective, with context, addressing how it fits into the bigger picture, parallels, helps us become more attuned to motivation, needs and desires in the here-and-now, experiencing the relationship from their perspective.

In one-to-one or group SUPERvision consider:

  • Who really is (are) the SUPERvisee(s)?
  • What way do they come into the room (online or face-to-face in person)?
  • What way do they initially connect with me? With others? With the environment?
  • What way do they sit? What patters are emerging in terms of their posture? The arrangement they sit in? Spaces? Connection?
  • What way do they hold themselves?
  • What way did the session start? (for example, naturally, clumsily, with flow, formally, casually…)
  • What way do they talk? Tone? Pitch? Amount of speech?
  • What might be their perception of me? What ways are they reacting to my presence?
  • What ways are topics presented in actual words? Through body language? Cognitively? Emotionally?
  • Am I clear? Is there any lack of clarity? What is creating the ‘unclear’? What ways do they relate to me? Am I too conceptual?
  • Results for whom? Because?

Maintaining and exceeding standards

A key result of Coaching SUPERvision is that it helps to raise standards across the coaching profession and improves the impact of coaching for individuals and organisations. For example, for organisations to develop a culture of coaching, they need consistently positive outcomes.

SUPERvision be it one-on-one, group, face-to-face, virtual or peer SUPERvision – is also a check-in to ensure that the organisation has the highest calibre of coaches.

Coaching is a skilled discipline that also needs contextualized and systemic knowledge and the right behaviours to develop coaching relationships. To do it well, coaches need more than just training and qualifications; they also need high levels of integrity, self-esteem, passion, creativity, developmental readiness and self-awareness. Furthermore, they need to be agile and responsive to unexpected and unique situations in our VUCA world.

Through interviews de Estevan-Ubeda (2018) explored the development journey of seven highly experienced coach SUPERvisors, each of whom had been SUPERvising a minimum of ten years. Many different ways coaching SUPERvisors develop and learn were uncovered. One of the strongest forms of learning was developing from experience which subsumes learning from life, learning from SUPERvising others, learning from being SUPERvised, and reflection. An important contribution of this research was a discussion of SUPERvisors being SUPERvised. Very little research has been done in this field, yet it could play an important role in the development of coach SUPERvisors (ICF, 2018).

Skills, Knowledge and Behaviours

There will always be aspects of ourselves that we are unaware of, things that only others see. We may only ever experience ourselves from the inside. There are aspects of ourselves which we hide, consciously or subconsciously, from others. There are also those things which are hidden from ourselves and others. By focusing on the interventions (questions, reflections, feedback, clean language, activities used, management of sessions, presence of patterns), you can discover deeper aspects of your relationships, leaning in to ‘create from’ what comes up. This is empowering. The model supports the surfacing of clarity through generative problem solving, whilst also enabling a focus on strengths to enable them to be sustained, channeled and grown.

The model encourages listening to our bodies and to what messages they are revealing through experiences and emotions, pains and ‘butterflies’, gut reactions – intuition – and the wisdom of our ancestors that has been passed down to us. CoachME blends reflection with creating plans and acting so that the practice of new approaches, new behaviours, and our ‘signature presence’ in the world can enable us to show up at our best, as our most powerful self. As we act and learn we grow even more in our awareness, self-knowledge, positive energy and resilience. We are comfortable in a place of not knowing the answers and are curious questioners. By learning to resource ourselves we are inviting in more ease, more spaciousness, connecting what is important to who we are being.

As with the Code of Ethics of professional bodies, we advocate using language appropriately and respectfully, language that is relevant to those we are working with, that is jargon-free and inclusive to support equal power. We also partner with the SUPERvisee when ending a session and project to assess return on investment, check-in to assess how much desired results have been achieved, and to honour the experience in the way the SUPERvisee feel is best.

The skill of staying in the moment, honouring what is coming up, as opposed to feeling a need to fix things is one SUPERvision topic around Coaching or Performance Interfering Thoughts (CIT or PIT) (Neemam and Palmer, 2001). “…our own being is the most important resource we all use in our work…” (Hawkins and Shohet, 2012). You might begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What kinds of interventions do I use? What are my intentions?
  • Which interventions do I use more than others? Because… What’s that about?
  • Which interventions could I have used? What might have been the impact? For whose benefit?
  • What am I hold back on? What else is being held back?
  • What’s the most ‘way out’ intervention that could be played with?
  • What ways is the SUPERvisee locked into an either/or about what to do next?
  • What was said beyond words? What does that tell me about myself? My perception of my client? My relationship(s) with your client(s)? What the relationship(s) are calling out for?
  • Who speaks when? How often? What would be the impact of saying less? Saying more?
  • What parts of SUPERvision are directive, non-directive, something else (Caroll, 2009)?
  • What is my philosophy?
  • What theories and models influence my work? Because…?
  • What processes work for me and my clients?

Ethics is part of many facets of the model, knowledge, behaviours, reflection. Being ethical means different things to different people. The quality of the SUPERvisee’s work and that they are practicing ethically (Hawkins & Smith, 2013) are seen as two paramount SUPERvision focuses. The line between right and wrong can move dependent upon people’s beliefs, morality and understanding of the world. During SUPERvision, the coach can discuss information that is of concern without breaching the confidentiality of the coaching relationship. For example, the coach’s values may not resonate with those of their coachee, or they may feel uncomfortable about behaviours or issues that arise during coaching.

A SUPERvisor can help the coach to become clearer on how their own perceptions influence how they are approaching a situation and whether that approach is beneficial for themselves, their coachees, the organisations they work for or with, and whether it adheres to professional coaching standards. Here, the SUPERvisor acts as an independent third party that can help the coach to maintain balance and objectivity in difficult engagements. That said, Turner and Passmore (2018) researched how coaching SUPERvisors handle ethical dilemmas in their practice. The study highlighted inconsistencies in practice which may have implications for the profession and its reputation, for example, one in five coach SUPERvisors did not discuss how values play out in ethical decision-making and 7.92% did not consider a Code of Ethics as a factor to consider, while 24.75% saw codes as a ‘possible’ factor in ethical decision-making. SUPERvision also enables the SUPERvisee to draw upon their strengths and creativity, benchmarking their capacity.

To help you get perspective on a coaching SUPERvision relationship, it can be useful to consider the relationship creatively using a metaphor, or by taking a perspective view of it. For example, you might start by asking yourself questions such as:

  • What conscious processes were at play? What was their impact?
  • What name would I give to this relationship if it were a dance? A play? A painting? A vehicle? The weather?
  • If I was shipwrecked on a desert island with this coach, what way would we each behave? What would I do straight away to survive? If we have been on the island together for a month, what would we be experiencing in the relationship now?
  • From my most recent SUPERvision session, if I was watching it through the window without sound, what would I notice about the relationship?
  • What’s behind this client choosing you?
  • If we were both animals, what would I be? Because? What ways do I interact with them? What’s the learning?
  • What transference and counter-transference is occurring in the relationship?
  • What ways are learning moments celebrated?
  • What’s in my relationship with the SUPERvisee that may be stopping solutions emerging?
  • What ways could I lean further into the relationship?
  • What ways can thoughts be held lightly as a feather?
  • What can I do for x to be in my reach?
  • Who is in front of (besides, behind, over) me in my work?

Hawking and Smith (2013) share the concept of ‘creating the space for grace’. For a dialogue to have grace, it needs to move between what David Bohn (1987, 1996) terms ‘thoughts’ and ‘thinking’ to create generative dialogue where new thinking emerges in the space between us. To create this relational space as SUPERvisor and SUPERvisee we need to share thinking with each other without attachment, with an invitation to challenge, to purposefully explore beyond the currently known.

Reflection

The model includes reflection to evoke insight for ourselves personally, as Professionals in terms of what we are doing in our world, yet also who we are being. It is also useful to share with our SUPERvisees. We see it as an essential part of the learning and development process as insight occurs when we gain a deep intuitive understanding about ourselves and the situations we are experiencing. When you and your client sit together in a session in person, or on-line live, you create something greater than the sum of the parts – a relationship. The relationship is created in the here-and-now by both the SUPERvisor and the SUPERvisee and, this is a vehicle of change – even positive transformation for all involved! We need to co-create the learning relationship (Bird and Gornall, 2016). The quality of the relationship is often the deciding factor in the results achieved, it is an intangible, ever-changing experience which can be difficult to describe. What ways is data from experience(s) held?

Le Jeune (2017) talks ‘free flow’, for example, metaphorically pinning a thought to a leaf and allowing it to float away down a stream. At other times we need to make meaning (Frankl, 2004) of what is presented, with compassion for ourselves. Without self-compassion it is difficult to be a role model and we judge ‘self’ (Reiman, 2006). This concept also supports the use of our ‘internal supervisor’ (Hawkins and Schwenk, 2010). Action is only as good as the quality of thinking behind it (Kline, 2009) and so considering what circumstances create the richest thinking is paramount.

The concept of a ‘safe space’ is traditionally associated with the field of psychology, and it is from here that the concept of Coaching SUPERvision originated. Having the opportunity to debrief, off-load, and reflect in a safe space can be vitally important for the progress of a coaching programme and essential for the wellbeing of the coach.

SUPERvision sessions give the SUPERvisee the chance to vent their frustrations and to talk about problems, difficult relationships or awkward situations, in a confidential setting with a qualified SUPERvisor. This can help the coach to deal with the potential stresses and pressures of the job and ensure that they can continue to coach in the most effective way possible.

Coaching and SUPERvision should remain, as much as possible, in the here-and-now. As coaching is a focus on deepening understanding and forwarding action, if regression persists, then a suggestion of therapy may well be needed. The same applies in SUPERvision and it is therapeutic as each time behaviour is changed successfully, cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) supports our beliefs or script, can also change.

When training SUPERvisors we work to enable them to discover these allusive assumptions. We ask them to say what comes into their mind ‘in the moment’ as they finish certain sentences. Consider what comes up for you around these pointers:

Assumption exercise
I assume that…

My clients 

I feel embarrassed 

The most precious thing in life is 

Peace is 

Time away is 

When stuck I always

Women are 

Teenagers are 

CEOs are 

Reflection is 

These reflections can reveal what we hold to be truths, even those that are not conscious or are semi-conscious.

Action

You have the luxury of experiencing yourself from the inside. You know yourself better than anyone else, you are the expert on you. Your ‘process’ is all your moment-by-moment thoughts, experiences, sensations and behaviour such as your body language, in response to your team. When you gain awareness of your process, you discover an invaluable stream of data that, when reflected upon critically, provides an opportunity to learn about the team, yourself, and the relationship between you. This process uncovers what was previously unknown to you. For example, you can use awareness of your process to discover what within you may be supporting or hindering the work together where resonance and dissonance lies.

Research on the effect of reflecting upon positive events and gratitude found that women who wrote three positive events, career-related or otherwise, at the end of each workday, as well as a reason why they thought each good thing had happened, experienced reductions in headache, back pain and muscle tension (Bono et al.2013). Choosing to reflect on positivity and strengths really does have impact. Choosing our attitude in a situation is the ultimate freedom (Frankl, 2004).

Focusing on your own process does not mean interpreting what you know about the SUPERvisee. It is about attending to your own experiencing of yourself in the here-and-now. Consider:

  • What do I experience in response to the SUPERvisee (emotionally, somatically, cognitively…)?
  • What are my physical sensations in response to the SUPERvisee?
  • What thoughts do I have about the SUPERvisee?
  • What is my body language saying?
  • What ways am I working at my growth edge?
  • What might my client be covertly telling me? (such as “I love this time together’, ‘Give me the answer’, ‘you are not listening to me’, ‘this is rubbish’)
  • What assumptions am I making? What’s fact?
  • What am I covertly communicating to the SUPERvisee? (such as ‘I want to perform well to get more work’, ‘be liked’, ‘I must do well and pass my exam’)
  • Where are my experiences coming from? Where do they sit in my body? How big are they? What colour are they? How impactful are they?
  • What do I want to experience to work most effectively with this SUPERvisee? What do the SUPERvisee and their stakeholders need from me?
  • What ways am I true to myself (Ware, 2011)?

Transition Planning

What happens in coaching can match experiences in SUPERvison. This is called parallel process. For example, perhaps the Team Leader becomes angry, or tearful, or petulant, when talking about their team, and discovers that some of their clients are experiencing those same emotions. Parallel process can involve or represent internal politics, uncertainty, and blurred boundaries, and they may be subtle. By recognising when you feel bored, defensive, or other less obvious emotions can help you understand the Leader-Team system better. Parallel process may also operate in reverse – the relationship between you and your team may mirror what happens outside of your awareness between you and your SUPERvisor! Reflecting on strategies to stay grounded can support the SUPERvision and working with accountability measures is found to be good practice (Moral, Turner and Goldvarg, 2017). Journaling can support reflection and also being grounded. Taking this further, racking the embodied experience of writing helps us to stay grounded in the present moment. (Adams 2016)

Scripting in transactional analysis (Steiner,1975) suggests that experiences in life arise and then prompt us to create story, that is, the script about self, others and our position in the world. This then leads to us looking for, creating and interpreting certain experiences that are likely to support and affirm that storyline. For example, we may learn in childhood that if we do not speak up loudly, we will not be heard. Then in later life this also plays out which can both be helpful and unhelpful. Exploring our scripts is important work in SUPERvision as they are often ‘at play’ in our work.

The following questions represent the kind of enquiry that helps you recognise parallel process:

  • What ways am I similar to my SUPERvisor / SUPERvisee?
  • What am I holding back from my SUPERvisor / SUPERvisee?
  • What ways do I regard my SUPERvisor when I talk about my client?
  • What ways have we been working together effectively?
  • What ways do I consider my client in the sessions, immediately after sessions, when in SUPERvision?
  • What scripts need to be ‘flipped’ for planning to be effective?

Belief, Momentum, Celebration

The model works to ‘enable potential’ of SUPERvisees and their Coachees, the SUPERvisor and the wider system. Momentum during and beyond the session(s) is part of contracting, whilst celebrating through the process is honoured. As a SUPERvisor, turn your attention to your own process. Focusing on your process helps you gain insight into parallel process, the quality of SUPERvisory relationship, and your ‘relationship-by-proxy’ with your team – how you imagine your client to be, how you imagine your relationship with them to be, and how you imagine you might interact with them. This helps to identify how relationship mirrors our other clients and team relationships. For example, we have experienced attributing feelings to the client that resonate well with our SUPERvisee, ‘As you talk about your client, I notice I’m feeling very sad, I wonder how they might feel?’, ‘Yes, he does seem sad.’ This shows that you can subsequently explore sadness with your team. Alternatively, you might discover that the sadness is yours, or belongs to something in your past and is not to do with this relationship. This is when we act on our noticing and recognise that which we are experiencing doesn’t fit here, so we can then self-manage. When we believe in the process of SUPERvision, we are more resilient under stress. The opposite can negatively impact IQ, especially the quality of our thinking (Nadles, 2011). This is also why it is important to develop cognitive thinking skills during Coaching and SUPERvision training, as we need to be able to challenge and modify our own unhelpful thoughts (Palmer, 2017). Focusing on your own processes as a SUPERvisor. Ask your SUPERvisee if you can record sessions so you can re-listen and notice patterns as well as habitual or preferred ways of working.

  • What am I experiencing right now?
  • And that’s like what?
  • And that comes from…?
  • What else am I noticing?
  • What’s a needed development for me? What will this bring? What way can I action that?
  • What ways am I open to new learning (Carroll, 2017)?
  • What’s reactive (proactive) in my work?
  • What enables me to stay confident and competent during stress (as opposed to being in ‘survival mode’) (Caroll, 2017)?

System / Field

The model is surrounded by the field and systems we live and work in, to ensure that the needs of others, stakeholders, are alive in all coaching conversations as we feel this is essential for supporting the whole theoretical and practical elements of the Model. Note that field and systems are on a semi-permeable or dotted line as we feel that reflection, learning and challenge should be two, three and four ways for the whole system to benefit.

Where patterns emerge and things ‘show up’ in different parts of a SUPERvisee’s life, be they time management, relationship conflict or lack of confidence, for example, reflection allows for exploration and recognition through tools, techniques and competency check-ins. Conversations also help to support positive patterns and to break cycles of negative ones. By coaching the person and not the issue, we allow discovery of patterns in different parts of the SUPERvisee’s life to surface. This is helped by seeing things from a meta-view, the bigger picture. Reflection can be in-action, in the moment, in a meeting, in a family conversation, with a client, as well as reflection on-action, in retrospect, formally or while closing the day or when exercising, so that reflection can inform and improve future action.

The wider context is the field of coaching and the field that the SUPERvisee work in – such as the financial sector, coaching educational leaders, and so forth. It also includes their community, family, current and historical background, and is comprised of two important types of influence, called Stakeholders who have a stake and influence (the organisation, the boss, the client, the family, the government, the regulatory authority…), and Ghosts which may be, for example, elements of the wider context – a person who is no longer present in the company or team, but who’s effects remain (Teachers, people who have left the organisation or board, significant others, ‘Bosses’, care givers…). We are the sum of our experiences, past and present. An understanding of the external influences can help you to consider:

  • What is valued by different stakeholders in the system?
  • Work through impasse – when the session seems to be going nowhere, is it due to the unacknowledged influence of a ghost or stakeholder?
  • What ways is conflict addressed?
  • Resolve ethical dilemmas (such as knowing whether or not a client is already in contact with their Doctor can help you work ethically doing no harm and doing good)
  • Identify common themes across your client work (such as patterns in the way you experience your clients, as the result of your upbringing)
  • In organisational work get curious about transparency, how reporting lines are set up, how contracting established, global issues for the organisation, who key players with influence are, what’s happening in the sector at large, what political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental (PESTLE) elements are at play.
  • What’s been learnt from the team in terms of the values and assumptions about the organisation?
  • What ways are stakeholders connected?
  • What shift is needed in the wider system for the team to fulfil its purpose?

More on Transactional Analysis

SUPERvision may include a look at transactional analysis (TA), what roles each party is playing, for example, the child, the adult or the parents, making you (and your coachee) more conscious of the impact of playing these roles, and shifts in the SUPERvision session and in your coaching practice. A particular theme of the TA approach is about facilitating others to think for themselves and to ‘make their own meaning’ – in other words, to construct their own map of the world. Hence, the importance of separating the ‘why’ from the ‘what’ of SUPERvision. Too much focus on the functions of the SUPERvisor may create an impression that a SUPERvisor’s role is similar to that implied within industry, when supervisor refers to the first line of management and is tasked with making sure the worker is doing the job properly. One rationale for enrolling a SUPERvisor is a desire to work with another person who can notice what we are unaware of, so that we become more self-aware, so that the SUPERvison process is developing our own SUPERvision, or meta-perspective. In fact, it could be argued that a more appropriate name for SUPERvision is meta-vision as the SUPERvision of the SUPERvisor is needed as an enabling, rather than having an outcome objective.

 

Drawing attention to discounting

The reason we need another person to help us develop our SUPERvision is due to a process which is labelled within TA theory as discounting. Defined as minimising or ignoring some aspect of the self, others or the situation, discounting is a normal, healthy process that becomes overdone. If we are to remain sane, we all need to discount some of the stimuli that will typically be bombarding us. For instance, as you are reading, you will have been discounting the fact that you need to breathe. You may discount background conversations when eating in a restaurant so that you can pay attention to the person you are in conversation with. Somehow, part of you is still registering what else is happening, because you will instantly react if your name is said somewhere else in the room.

The problem with discounting is that we tend to do it unconsciously in order to maintain a frame of reference, and our frame of reference inevitably contains limiting beliefs. When those limiting beliefs are somehow relevant to our work with the client, they may limit our effectiveness. I can use another TA concept, the drama triangle (Karpman, 1968) talks of the Villain, Victim and Rescuer tendencies. If we view the SUPERvisee as a Victim and want to take care of them instead of challenging them to recognise their own part in any problematic relationships they share, we are effectively colluding.

It is easy for us to see when someone else is discounting. When a colleague describes what is happening for them, for example, being overworked, we will often have the experience of wondering why they cannot see that there is an obvious solution. We may want to ‘fix’ things, yet they have an apparently logical reason why each of those solutions will not work, despite choosing not to act and the overwork problem.

Helping a practitioner to recognise their own discounting is one of the major benefits of SUPERvison . The ‘why’ of having a SUPERvisor is to enable the SUPERvisee to become increasingly competent at identifying and eliminating their own discounting processes. It is to enable them to develop their own SUPERvision of their practice in a way that increasingly leads to recognition of their own discounting.

Conclusion

SUPERvision, as part of the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) of any coach, is clearly very important. But for internal coaches, trained within or outside of an organisational context, it is of paramount importance. SUPERvision is key to the future success of any coaching strategy and organisations that don’t do their due diligence are taking risks with their organisation and with the health and welfare of their employees.

Organisations that establish clear measures for their coaching programmes will have a much better understanding of the commercial impact of getting it right and the damage that can be done if they get it wrong. Investing in SUPERvision is a way for organisations to protect their investment and maximise their return on investment of coaching. By understanding the outcomes of both coaching and SUPERvision, organisations are much more likely to be able to establish and sustain coaching practices in the long-term.

SUPERvision also ensures that standards are maintained, this can be particularly useful for internal coaches who are far more likely to be subjected to bias, pressure, intimidation, isolation, conflict, confidentiality issues, and power games, because their coachees are also their colleagues. Informal coaching relationships, that occur between a coach and their direct reports, also have a complex dynamic which SUPERvision can help to untangle. Organisations that provide SUPERvision programmes secure a degree of reassurance that their internal coaches will be able to overcome these challenges without detriment to the people involved or to the reputation of the organisation.

Author: Dr Clare Beckett-McInroy EdD MA QTS

Clare is an ICF Master Certified Coach and Registered Mentor Coach, EMCC Master Practitioner and Accredited SUPERvisor, and Certified Agile Coach, Systemic Team and Executive Coach who has worked across sectors globally. She also designs and delivers AoC and ICF approved and accredited programmes including ACTP, ACSTH, Certification in Mentor Coaching, Certification in SUPERvision.

Copyright © 2020, BECKETT MCINROY CONSULTANCY, All Rights Reserved

 

 

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